The Omnicron Variant – another layer of complexity?

Are decision-makers able to think outside of the box and to find new solutions?

Just as many were beginning to believe that the end of the pandemic was in sight, so a new threat has emerged with the Omnicron variant. Of course, the level of threat is still yet to be seen but the likelihood is that it will add another layer of complexity and disrupt what had been growing confidence that the world could return to some level of normality in 2022.

There will be many column inches devoted to the new threat but, in terms of hospitality, the chances are that it will certainly create some further barriers to a return to work in offices and in the rebuilding of city centres densities; it will serve to increase the already high levels of anxiety which many are feeling.

As we come to the end of the year, there are many concerned that Q1 of 2022 was going to be deeply challenging as it was. Many have commented that many companies are just going through the motions as they face one operational issue after another when the need is for some real planning and new strategies to be developed. One senior consultancy figure noted last week “most companies still are unsure as to how they will approach their plans for next year as there is a real division in thinking. Some believe that numbers were building back whilst others argue that work patterns and density numbers have now changed forever. As there is no real clarity of what will play out, then most are conflicted and unsure.”

The challenges to be faced in Q1 are testing and the odds are that the new variant will add an extra layer of complexity and at best, serve to delay the returns of some back to offices, and of international business if this was beginning to return. Europe had already seen new restrictions put into place so will this feed in actions within the UK? The Events sector must be holding its breath that Christmas can remain unaffected.

One can argue from different angles but surely it is time for companies to create stronger business planning processes and create multiple numbers of plans so that they can face the challenges of the New Year with some degree of certainty? This is now becoming a long crisis which is nearing its second anniversary so there is little excuse for companies not to possess new plans for the market.

Unfair? A research report recently emerged which noted that over 65% of those on furlough has been surprised by how little had developed in their time absent and many felt disappointed that so little had seemingly progressed. It is being cited as one of the main reasons why so many are looking for new roles. However, this is a problem being noted not just in the UK but in the US and across the developed world; so much so, that one of the emerging discussions pieces is whether many in positions of authority simply do not possess either the skills or desire to make decisions which lead to genuine change – is this true? Has a whole generation been developed which is so used to working almost to a formula that it is struggling to adapt to an environment which is moving at some speed?

On a similar note, many have noted that their companies are struggling to innovate and in truth, have not innovated in the past number of years. Business has become almost formulaic rather than seeking out solutions and pushing boundaries to find new answers.

This may or may not be true but the above is often related to new fresh leadership blood breaking through. One wonders if the lack of emerging leaders being able to break through to the board level has led to almost a lack of new ideas and thinking emerging.

All questions being posed and will continue to be posed as the depth of challenge is growing. All emerging research suggests much has changed so logic suggests that either companies need to adapt or they will struggle.

To provide some context, the below are just a few of the key changes being raised:

· The consumer is seeking greater and strong experiences and customer care in order to travel/engage. How have service levels evolved?

· Digitalisation is a major core pillar for all. However many are still viewing as an exercise to control rather than empower the consumer. How will this evolve in the next year?

· Sustainability has become a leading area for investment but how well is it understood? Do many still think environment only rather than social, cultural and economic change too?

· People are still the industry’ leading asset. It is harder to recruit and retain great talent but real change is still in its earliest of stages. Why?

· Many younger professionals want to buy food brands at work. Compass last week announced new plans to engage on this. Who else will follow?

· City centres will have less density in numbers. What change will this lead to?

· How will business travel recover and change?

Many questions are still to be considered and answered.